Review: Mr. Rosenblum Dreams In English by Natasha Solomons
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Jack Rosenblum and his young family were some of the fortunate Jews who escaped Berlin before WWII started. When they disembarked in Great Britain, they were given a pamphlet entitled While you are in England: Helpful Information and Friendly Guidance for every Refugee. Mr. Rosenblum becomes obsessed with the idea of living his life according to these rules and becoming a perfect English gentleman. As time goes by, he realizes that the list is incomplete. He begins to add to it and to cross items off the list. The original list states that only English should be spoken. Mr. Rosenblum thinks that every English gentleman owns a suit that was tailored for him on Savile Row. He crosses both items off his list.
Things proceed swimmingly for a few years, then Jack hits a snag. Every English gentleman must belong to a golf club. Mr. Rosenblum tries and tries and tries again to join one. No golf clubs are admitting Jews. Jack, being an eternal optimist, decides to buy a place in the country and build his own. It shouldn't be too hard.
I'll admit that I was a little nervous about this book as I got a good start on it. I was really liking optimistic Jack and there seemed to be so much room for heartbreak in his story. I don't generally like heart-breaking books. There are heart-breaking moments, but the overall tone is one of hope. Much more my style.
I just couldn't help but like and root for Mr. Rosenblum. I wished that he could be comfortable in his own skin and with his own identity, but I understood where he was coming from. He felt that he could only be safe if he became a proper English gentleman. He came from such a hard time and place. His attitude is understandable. He was such a hard worker and his boundless enthusiasm for his projects was endearing. He might be a hard man to live with, but he was very good company in the pages of a book.
His wife Sadie was almost the exact opposite. She is clinging to her old life and her memories. I felt so bad for her. She lost family in the Holocaust and she tried so hard to remember them and honor them. Mr. Rosenblum's embrace of the English life felt to her like a betrayal of the old life. Sadie had a hard time but she started to grow on me as well.
I read the last several chapters with a huge smile on my face. This was just a feel-good book about community, remembrance, and accepting yourself. I highly recommend it.
Read an excerpt (the book's original title is Mr. Rosenblum's List).
Find author Natasha Solomons on her website, her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.
Buy Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English at
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